Updated: Aug 22
Several weeks ago, an individual whose leadership I admire, Marcus Buckingham, reached out via email asking ways to recognize, include and promote African-American leadership, thought and minority businesses. At first, I hesitated wondering if the email represented a scam prompting me to reply and then invade my laptop with malware.
However, I braved the risks and shared my bitcoin worth (formerly know as two cents) with Marcus about the leadership coaching philosophy that I coach with my clients, Ubuntu. I shared some of my experiences in the corporate leadership world. The fact is CEO leadership in this arena is less than 1% African-American in representation. I shared with him some of the push back received when encouraging an Ubuntu mindset in this corporate space. I figured, "Why not share. Be vulnerable and put it out there. He probably would never personally receive the email or have time to read or engage at this level." I thought.
Early morning, half awake with blurred eyes, I checked my email. Wait a minute! Is that a reply? A reply from Marcus Buckingham? OMB! Yes, it was. I read his reply commenting on taking my remarks into consideration and further discussing the works and philosophies of other African-Americans leaders. In my head, I read his response with a UK British accent. He ended his response with "Thank you again for reaching out, and showing me fruitful new ways to make humanity better. I’d be happy to stay in touch."
As a former Microsoft and Amazon employee, I have personally met both Mr. Gates and Mr. Bezos merely as an executive coordinator. Some might have considered that a perk of the job back then. I am quite certain that I am still an unknown..ha..ha. I mentioned in the beginning my admiration for Marcus and his work, ever since I discovered him years ago via Oprah. Why the admiration? Let me use his above example to hone in a leadership principle or trait that no leader, manager, supervisor, mom or dad should leave home without, vulnerability.
I remember one of Dr. Brene Brown' TED talks discussing the power of vulnerability. In her research on connection, she found those individuals... "who believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful" were more likely to invest in relationship and connection. My admiration for Marcus became experientially real in the moment I read his reply. His vulnerability was real, not pretend. I connected with him. Ubuntu: I am because we are. In my mind Marcus, top-notch business consultant, speaker, author, a major league player in the HR consulting world, exhibited a moment of vulnerability in asking, considering and listening to me a minor leaguer.
Real leadership: when one willingly embraces vulnerability and takes on the role of "student" as well as a leader.